Latest Newsletter of the Human Rights Review Panel

HRRPThe Human Rights Review Panel (HRRP) has issued its eleventh newsletter. The newsletter comprises a detailed analysis of the Panel’s decisions over the last two months.

The newsletter also highlights the meetings that the HRRP held in November with officials and international organisations.

The HRRP met with Mr Gabriele Meucci, the new Head of Mission of EULEX Kosovo. The Panel briefed Mr Meucci on its mandate, procedures and operations. The meeting was also an occasion to discuss issues of mutual interest and concern.

The HRRP also met with its sister institution, the Human Rights Advisory Panel (HRAP) of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). The Panels compared mutual professional experiences to date, discussed matters of common concern and future challenges.

The HRAP and the HRRP are the first ever institutionalized entities engaged in the assessment of alleged human rights violations by international organizations in the conduct of their executive powers in peacekeeping missions and rule of law missions respectively.

The HRRP also continued its outreach campaign around Kosovo. It met with Mr Srećko Bogajčević, the Political Advisor and the Chief of Cabinet at the Ministry for Communities and Return. The meeting was an occasion to brief Mr Bogajčević on the mandate and procedures of the Panel as well as its case load and decisions.

The HRRP’s mandate is to review alleged human rights violations by the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in the conduct of its executive mandate. The Panel will look into whether a violation of human rights occurred or not and formulate recommendations for remedial action.

iLawyer Dr. Guénaël Mettraux is a member of the Panel.

UN Arms Trade Treaty Becomes International Law

walking away from gunsTomorrow, the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will come into force, thereby becoming binding international law for all countries that ratified it. The ATT is the first legally binding international treaty that controls the global trade of conventional arms by prohibiting the transfer of weapons that may be used to commit atrocities and other serious human rights violations.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein hailed the imminent entry into force of the UN Arms Trade Treaty as a “landmark step in curbing the human rights violations that stem from the poorly regulated international trade in conventional weapons.“ “The unregulated arms trade is one of the main drivers of armed conflict and violence, contributing and facilitating the commission of human rights and humanitarian law violations.”

The ATT contains robust provisions preventing the transfer of conventional arms, ammunitions and parts and components to other countries when it is known that these arms or items would be used in the commission of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or serious violations of international human rights law.

In addition, states are obliged to assess if there is an overriding risk that a proposed arms export to another country will be used for or contribute to serious violations of international law, in which case they are prohibited from selling these arms. Continue reading

First MICT Appeals Judgment in Rwandan Genocide case

Augustin Ngirabatware

Augustin Ngirabatware

Today, the Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) delivered its first appeals judgment in the case of Augustin Ngirabatware v. The Prosecutor. President of the Appeals Chamber, Judge Theodor Meron delivered a summary of the judgment in Arusha, Tanzania, in the case of Rwanda’s former Minister of Planning, Mr. Augustin Ngirabatware.

The Appeals judgment originated from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)’s final trial judgment, delivered on 20 December 2012. With this judgment, the Trial Chamber had convicted Mr Ngirabatware for direct and public incitement to commit genocide, genocide and rape as a crime against humanity.

This morning, the Appeals Chamber unanimously affirmed Ngirabatware’s conviction for direct and public incitement to commit genocide. A majority of the Appeals Chamber also affirmed Ngirabatware’s conviction for instigating and aiding and abetting genocide. However, it held that that the Trial Chamber had erred in convicting Mr Ngirabatware for rape as a crime against humanity pursuing to the extended form of Joint Criminal Enterprise.

The Trial Chamber had convicted Ngirabatware pursuant to the extended form of JCE (JCE III) in relation to the repeated rape of a Tutsi woman in april 1994 by two members of the Joint Criminal Enterprise. As a quick reminder: the third, and most controversial, category of the Joint Criminal Enterprise, provides that all participants who had the intend to participate in the common design of the Joint Criminal Enterprise can be held criminally responsible for acts that fall outside of the common plan or purpose of the JCE if such acts are a “natural and foreseeable consequence of the effecting of that common purpose and if the defendant was reckless or indifferent to that risk.” Continue reading

2015 International Criminal Court Summer School

Date: 15-19 June 2015

Location: Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, University Rd, Galway, Ireland.

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The annual International Criminal Court Summer School at the Irish Centre for Human Rights is the premiere summer school specializing on the International Criminal Court. The summer school allows participants the opportunity to attend a series of intensive lectures over five days. The lectures are given by leading academics on the subject and by legal professionals working at the International Criminal Court.

The summer school is attended by legal professionals, academics, postgraduate students and NGOs. Participants are provided with a detailed working knowledge of the establishment of the Court, its structures and operations, and the applicable law. Participants are also given the opportunity to network with the speakers throughout the week. Lectures also speak to related issues in international criminal law, including: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, the crime of aggression, universal jurisdiction, immunities, and the role of victims.

A limited number of scholarships are available. To register and for more information regarding the 2015 ICC Summer School, please visit the conference website or send an email.

Criminal Complaint Against Nigerian General Buhari To Be Filed With The International Criminal Court On Short Notice

by Göran Sluiter

Muhammadu Buhari

General Muhammadu Buhari

Today, 15 December 2014, it is announced that a further petition will be filed on short notice with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague. The petition calls for the criminal investigation and ultimate prosecution of General Muhammadu Buhari – the All Progressive Congress party candidate in the 2015 Nigerian presidential elections.

Buhari is suspected of having committed crimes against humanity through the instigation of post election violence in 2011 in which more than 800 innocent Nigerians died and countless churches and schools in the northern parts of the country were destroyed. On April 16, 2011, during one of Buhari’s campaign rallies he -and some C.P.C Political/ party stalwarts- called upon his party supporters and loyalists “to destroy, kill and maim men, women, and children” who were opposed to his candidature.

A petition was originally filed with the ICC in the aftermath of the 2011 atrocities by the non-sectarian Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice (NCDJ). However, as Buhari, a former military ruler, has now formally launched a fresh attempt to return to power in the February elections, a decision has been made to supplement the 2011 petition with additional facts and legal analysis, and a renewed request for the ICC Prosecutor to urgently launch criminal investigations due to mounting concerns that Nigeria may again witness the killing and bloodshed of innocent civilians. Continue reading

After Torture Report, Rights of Victims and Accountability for Perpetrators Must Not Be Denied

By David Tolbert*

Torture ReportWith the publication of the much-delayed US Senate Intelligence Committee’s partial report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, at long last the truth is out. Put simply, the abuses it details are sickening. The report documents a period of lawlessness by the US Central Intelligence Agency. It shows that officials at the highest levels of the US government committed very serious and atrocious crimes, including systematic torture in violation of the UN Convention on Torture (of which the United States is a party) and US law.

The Senate report corroborates the findings of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), in a series of reports dating back to 2008, as well as other rights groups: that the systematic practice of torture against detainees in secret overseas prisons was approved and overseen at the most senior levels of the US government. Moreover, as Senator Dianne Feinstein aptly notes in the report’s foreword, these practices were in direct “violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.”

While we have known for over a decade about many of the details of illegal US detention and interrogation practices, the “Torture Report” establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt that the US government engaged in widespread and brutal use of torture and other criminal acts against a long list of individuals without a shred of due process or even the semblance of justice.

The full 6,700-page report has not been released yet, but its lengthy, heavily redacted executive summary nonetheless paints a repulsive picture of criminal and immoral practices far beyond what had been previously made known to the public. It also exposes the facile lie that torture somehow disrupted terror plots or saved American lives. The report, based on over 5 million pieces of evidence sourced from the CIA itself, decisively debunks this claim, and under the weight of direct evidence the CIA’s contorted claims fall like a house of cards. Moreover, it establishes in clear terms that the CIA’s torture program was perpetuated through misinformation to the public, Congress, and even the White House. Continue reading

ICC President Calls on the United States to Ratify the Rome Statute

Judge Song

Judge Sang-Hyun Song, President of the International Criminal Court

On the 10th of December 2014, one day after the release of the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture, President Sang-Hyun Song of the International Criminal Court (ICC) called on the US to ratify the Rome Statute in order to help furthering the promotion of accountability for human rights violations through effective and efficient litigation of international crimes.

Judge Sang-Hyun Song, elected as president of the ICC in 2009, noted that, although the ICC is not a human rights court in the strict sense, it was created to help protect core human rights and values. “With its mandate to fight impunity for the most serious crimes under international law […] one could say that the ICC is a criminal court with a strong human rights perspective.”

Mr Sang-Hyun Song acknowledged that “the ICC will never be able to stop impunity on its own.” Which has also never been the intention. He added that “it is primarily the job of States themselves to investigate and prosecute serious international crimes.”

He emphasised that the ICC is a court of last resort and that it can investigate and prosecute only when national jurisdictions in question are unwilling or incapable of doing so. In the case of the US torture claims, it seems that the US is indeed unwilling to prosecute the US officials responsible for the torture committed against suspects after the 9/11 attacks. Continue reading

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Calls for Prosecution of CIA Officials

Court HammerIn a statement made yesterday, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, welcomed the publication of the summary of the Feinstein report on crimes of torture and enforced disappearance of terrorist suspects by the CIA during the Bush-era.

“The summary of the Feinstein report […] confirms what the international community has long believed – that there was a clear policy orchestrated at a high level within the Bush administration, which allowed to commit systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law”, said the Special Rapporteur.

Ben Emmerson added that it is now time to take action and bring to justice the individuals listed in the report, irrespective of the fact that the policies revealed in the report were authorised at a high level within the US Government.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted that international law prohibits the granting of immunities to public officials who have engaged in acts of torture and therefore that CIA officers who physically committed acts of torture bear individual criminal responsibility for their conduct

“This applies not only to the actual perpetrators but also to those senior officials within the US Government who devised, planned and authorised these crimes”, he said.

For Ben Emmerson, the heaviest penalties should be reserved for those most seriously implicated in the planning and purported authorisation of these crimes. Moreover, he said, former Bush Administration officials who have admitted their involvement in the programme should also face criminal prosecution for their acts.

The Special Rapporteur concluded that torture being a crime of universal jurisdiction, the perpetrators may be prosecuted by any other country they may travel to. However, he added that the primary responsibility for bringing those responsible to justice rests with the US Department of Justice and the Attorney General.

ICC ASP Accepts Palestine as Non-State Party Observer

International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court

Yesterday, at an open meeting of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held in New York, the ASP accepted Palestine as a “non-state party observer.” This is the same status as that awarded to other non-signatory states to the Rome Statute, such as the United States or Russia.

Rule 94 of the Rules of Procedure states that at the beginning of every session of the Assembly, the President, subject to the adoption of the Assembly, may invite states which are not parties to the Rome Statute and which have not signed the final act nor the statute to attend the assembly proceedings.

Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor James Bays identified the acceptance as

“symbolic but adds to the international momentum for Palestinian statehood and has legal repercussions. If Palestine now applies to join the Rome Statute, it will be much harder to reject them. The acceptance clearly brings war-crimes trials against Israelis one step closer.”

The President of the ASP, however, warned that the effect of the acceptance was limited:

“The Assembly takes the following decisions on procedure independently and without prejudice to decisions taken for other purposes, including the decisions of any other organization or any organ of the court concerning legal matters before it.”

The Palestinian Authority sought to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC back in May 2009 by way of an Article 12(3) declaration. In April 2012, the Office of the Prosecutor determined that since Palestine was an “observer entity,” it could not ratify the Rome Statute. In November 2012, the UN upgraded Palestine’s membership status to that of a non-observer member state. Writing in an op-ed for The Guardian in August 2014, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda stated that the effect of this upgraded status was such that Palestine could now join the Rome Statute.

To date, the Palestinian Authority has not taken any further steps to ratify the Rome Statute.

ICC Prosecutor Withdraws Charges Against Kenyan President

President Kenyatta (c) AP

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta © AP

Yesterday, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, filed a notice to withdraw charges against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta citing a lack of evidence in the case. In her press release, Prosecutor Bensouda stated that there was no reasonable prospect of conviction at trial on the basis of the evidence before her. She acknowledged that

 

“this is a painful moment for the men, women and children who have suffered tremendously from the horrors of the post-election violence, and who have waited, patiently, for almost seven years to see justice done.”

She cited a number of key difficulties that her Office has faced in the prosecution of President Kenyatta for crimes against humanity including the death of key Prosecution witnesses and the withdrawal of others on the grounds of fear; the recanting by key witnesses of their accounts to investigation teams; and the Kenyan Government’s non-compliance with the investigation.

Fergal Gaynor, the legal representative of victims in the case said that the Kenyan Government had done everything in its power to obstruct the progress of the case.

Her decision comes following the 3 December refusal by the Trial Chamber to further adjourn the start of Mr Kenyatta’s trial pending the Government of Kenya’s compliance with the Prosecution’s request for records.

A withdrawal of charges is not legally an acquittal and the case against President Kenyatta may be reopened or brought in a different form if new evidence comes to light.

Prosecutor Bensouda called yesterday a “dark day for international criminal justice.”